Share of Anglicans who believe same-sex marriage is 'right' reaches all-time high, poll finds

A priest wears a rainbow ribbon during a vigil against Anglican Homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017.
A priest wears a rainbow ribbon during a vigil against Anglican Homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

While the Church of England’s official policies stand against same-sex relationships, a recent survey has found that a majority of Anglicans now support the practice.

In a YouGov online survey published late last month, 1,165 respondents identified as Anglican worshippers were asked whether they think “same-sex marriage is right or wrong.” The Anglican sample was taken from a larger sample of 5,120 adults in the United Kingdom who were surveyed between Feb. 22 and Feb. 27. 

Commissioned by the LGBT advocacy organization Ozanne Foundation, the survey found that 55% of self-identified Anglicans said that they believe same-sex marriage is “right,” while 29% said same-sex marriage is “wrong” and 17% said they “don’t know.” 

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In 2013, only 38% of Anglicans said they thought same-sex marriage is right. In 2015, the support increased to 45%, followed by 48% in 2020. The proportion of Church of England worshippers who believe same-sex marriage to be wrong has fallen from 47% in 2013.

The percentage of Anglican respondents who “don’t know” if same-sex marriage is right or wrong has stayed between 15% and 19% since 2003. 

“These results show that an overwhelming majority of those who identify as Anglican in England believe that same sex marriage is right, underlining the urgent need for the Church of England hierarchy to bring forward proposals to accept and celebrate same sex relationships,” LGBT church campaigner Jayne Ozanne, a former member of the Church of England’s Archbishop’s Council, said in a statement. 

“We have waited long enough – indeed it is over five years since we were promised a ‘new radical Christian inclusion’ by Archbishop Justin [Welby].”

In 2015, Welby called addressed the issue of same-sex marriage that has caused much disagreement in the denomination.

“To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church,” Welby said at the time. “This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.” 

According to the new poll, more Anglican women (62%) than men (44%) backed gay marriage. While 64% of 18 to 24-year-old Anglicans support same-sex marriage, only 40% of those over 65 said the same. 

The CofE states on its website that “the law prevents ministers of the Church of England from carrying out same-sex marriages."

"[A]lthough there are no authorised services for blessing a same-sex civil marriage, your local church can still support you with prayer," the website states. 

The Church of England’s Canon B30 reads: “The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.”

While Ozanne Foundation praised the survey results, critics questioned online why public opinion should be the basis for a church’s stance on a particular issue. 

“What is the Biblical basis for such a change?” asked university lecturer Sam Margrave on Twitter. “The majority of the public also support abortion, sex before marriage and capital punishment. Do you also want to see the Church change its policies on those issues based on public opinion?”

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